That was the last sound Jeremiah heard before everything faded to black. The next sound he heard was muffled cheering from a large crowd.
“What the hell?” Jeremiah said, as he awoke and found himself lying on a cot in the middle of a windowless room.
“Ah good, you’re awake. You’re up in 5. The host is just finishing up the last contestant’s finale,” a woman in a clean white suit said as she checked something off on a clipboard in her hand.
“What? Where am I?” he looked around the room as he sat up. There were cheerful posters on the walls of people standing in front of large crowds with the words THE GAME!! In big bold print written all over them. The vibe was distinctly “waiting room”, but Jeremiah had no idea how he got there. The last thing he remembered was driving home from work that night.
The woman made a tsk sound and continued checking things off on her clipboard. “You’re in the waiting lobby for contestants of the Game. Now get a move on, you’re up!” Not really knowing what else to do, Jeremiah did what he was told. He was quickly ushered onto a large stage where a man in another clean white suit stood with a microphone in his hand. Mirroring the posters, a large crowd also filled what looked like an auditorium which blared a loud white noise of cheers and claps.
“And here we have our next contestant, ladies and gentlemen! Let’s give a big cheer for JEREMIAH!!” the man’s voice boomed into the microphone in the best game show host impression that Jeremiah had ever heard. The crowd, as expected, cheered even louder than before. The fervor coming from the audience could have rivaled any sporting event, Jeremiah thought. “Say hello, Jeremiah!” the gameshow host continued as he shoved the glittery microphone into Jeremiah’s face.
“Um, hello?” he said, uncertainly. The crowd continued to cheer, but it was evident that several boos began to break out. “I’m Jeremiah? I don’t really know what I’m doing here.” That was met with more boos.
The host gave a hearty fake laugh and took the microphone back. With a flamboyant gesture, he beamed to the crowd and began to explain, The Game.
“Ha ha ha ha! We got a joker here, don’t we audience?! Well, I guess we’ll just have to explain the rules then, won’t we?” He gave a rakish wink to the crowd which seemed to excite them even more. That didn’t seem to stop the boos, though. “ The Game is simple! Our contestants sign up for the Game and when their time is up, they’re brought onto stage to be evaluated by our esteemed audience and viewers at home! From there, we go through various stages of the Game you’ve played and the audience will use these to decide whether they will vote for a second chance or GAME OVER!” he said the last two words in a mock ominous tone.
The crowd’s enthusiasm surged at the end of the host’s little speech. Jeremiah stood there, thoroughly perplexed over the situation he found himself in. He couldn’t recall ever signing up for a game, much less something as insipid as “The Game” and even if he had, it still didn’t explain how he woke up in that waiting room with no memory of how he got there in the first place. He also couldn’t recall going through any “stages” like the host mentioned. Jeremiah thought of himself as an average guy with an average life and an average family, not someone who would sign up for some kind of game. There wasn’t really anything special or daring in the 35 years of his life except for him finding true love at such an early age and having two adorable young children.
Whatever, Jeremiah thought to himself, hopefully this won’t take too long, Madeline must be worried sick by now. I’ll just get through whatever this is and then go home. At least I’ll have an interesting story to tell her.
“And now, let’s get into the reveal folks!” the host continued in that same exaggerated gameshow voice. It seemed impossible, but the crowd got even louder upon hearing this game had moved on to the next stage. To the back of the platform, a large white canvas dropped and a video was projected onto it much like it would in a movie theater. There, in front of everyone, clips of Jeremiah’s life began to play.
He stood there, transfixed as both painful and happy memories played as entertainment for the masses. What was crazy, Jeremiah realized, was that he never saw any form of cameras that would indicate someone was recording these events. Even crazier, the moments encompassed his entire life, not just his adult years where he’d have likely signed up for whatever game this was.
“Ah, folks, wasn’t Jeremiah just the most adorable baby you’ve ever seen?!” the host crooned into the microphone and was quickly met with several awws from the crowd. Jeremiah’s cheeked flared red, embarrassed over seeing himself naked and splashing in his parent’s kitchen sink as they bathed him. The movie quickly jumped to another scene of him having his ass thoroughly kicked in a fight between himself and three boys in high school.
He remembered that fight. One of the boys had taken a liking to Madeline, at the time his girlfriend, and was trying to assault her at a party they were all at. He had quickly stepped in, trying to save her from the ravishings of his drunk classmate. He managed to stop it from happening, but the ensuing fight between the boy and his friends had landed him in the emergency room with a broken eye socket and several cracked ribs. The scene changed to himself and Madeline in the hospital room with her sobbing over what almost happened.
Jeremiah felt the same surge of protectiveness he felt that night as he watched his beautiful wife cry and mouthed along with the words that came out of some invisible speaker. “Madeline, I’m fine. I love you. I will never let anyone ever hurt you. Ever.” The movie Madeline had stopped crying, and hugged him.
“True love right there folks! Didn’t you and Madeline end up getting married right out of high school, Jeremiah? I think the audience would agree with me when I say that I cried during your proposal, right crowd?” The audience echoed his sentiment. The host, however, didn’t give Jeremiah a chance to respond before moving along to the next segment. “But every love story has some tragedy in it, right? Who could forget THIS scene?”
The host made a grand gesture back towards the canvas where the memory of Jeremiah cheating on his wife played followed by her crushing reaction to the news. The memory was like a knife twisting in Jeremiah’s heart. He had hardly recalled the night it happened. He had just stormed out of the house he shared with her after having an explosive fight over something he couldn’t remember. He knew it was bad, bad enough to make him drive to a nearby bar and drink his anger away. Inebriated, he had made the worst decision of his life and slept with a woman he had never met before.
When he had woken up the following morning and realized what he had done, he rushed straight home and confessed everything to Madeline. He would never forget the look on her face as she crumpled to the floor and broke into heart shattering sobs. He had fallen down beside her and cried as well. Jeremiah was a fortunate man that she had forgiven him, and he knew it. He spent the next 14 years after that trying to make it up to her. She had always told him she didn’t hold it against him anymore, and knew how he truly felt but he could never quite move past the guilt he felt that morning.
The crowd’s mood instantly changed from raucous and enthusiastic to angry and menacing. It was at that moment that Jeremiah became afraid. He knew, with absolute certainty, that no matter what was shown next on that screen, it wouldn’t erase the serious stain on his life and character. He knew, with absolute certainty, that his life was truly over because of that one grave mistake. He didn’t know HOW he knew but it was like a primal instinct or fear had woken up inside him. And that instinct knew The Game was a matter of life and death.
Beads of sweat began to trickle down his face as the fear began to overtake him. Jeremiah found himself, utterly mute, unable to tell the crowd, ANYONE, that he loved his wife, and his children. He was unable to tell them how horrible he felt, even to this day, for making that one mistake, or the promise he made to himself of how he would never hurt Madeline again.
The host looked down gravely with a look of mock concern on his face. “Folks, we know that what Jeremiah did was terrible, but remember, we all make mistakes! And let’s not forget that he spent the rest of his time being a dutiful husband!” The audience didn’t seem to care though, and continued to hiss and boo at Jeremiah.
But just as Jeremiah finally found his voice, the host looked back up with a winning smile and said, “Well audience and our viewers at home! It’s time to vote! Will Jeremiah get a second chance? Or will this be a GAAAMMMMEEEE OVVVEEERRRR?! Vote now on your phones! Vote early, vote often! The polls will close in five minutes!” With a final flourish of his hands, the host fell silent. At once, the crowd took out their devices and the screen changed from Jeremiah and Madeline on the floor to a poll with the options “SECOND CHANCE” and “GAME OVER”.
Immediately, the “GAME OVER” option began filling quickly with “SECOND CHANCE” filling at a much slower pace. Jeremiah, now panicking, ran to the host and yanked the microphone out of his hand. The host protested loudly, but he didn’t care. He knew he HAD to say something, anything to get the crowd to change their minds.
“Listen! I’m a good person! I love my wife! It was a mistake, a stupid mistake, and she forgave me! I spent every moment since then making it up to her and I’ll continue doing that til the day I die! Please! Please!” His pleas did nothing to sway his silent judges as the numbers continued to surge for “GAME OVER”. Yet, it was at that moment that another figure walked onto the stage.
He was tall and silent. He was dressed, not in a white suit like the host or the lady in the waiting room, but in a brilliant inky black tunic suit. His skin seemed to shine and gave off a sense of awe and power. Jeremiah realized, the fear he felt before was nothing compared to the total dread this man inspired inside of him. Jeremiah knew, with every molecule inside him, that this man was his Creator, and worse, his Executioner. He wanted to run, to escape like a scared animal fleeing from an apex predator but found himself glued to the spot as the man’s eyes fixated on him.
The look on the man’s face was one of solemn sadness. It was as if he could look deep inside Jeremiah, and everything was laid bare. There were no secrets between this mysterious stranger and Jeremiah. Every thought, wish, fear, was his to witness and experience as well.
The host grabbed the microphone back from Jeremiah roughly and did his best to put the rakish smile back on his face. “Well my my my! Isn’t this an unexpected surprise! Creator is here everyone! Let’s give a HUGE welcome to Creator!” The crowd, transfixed upon the awe inspiring man, began whispering excitedly. They knew that Creator NEVER came out on stage for contestants. This was truly a rare moment in the history of The Game.
Creator turned to smile slightly at the crowd. A few fainted in their seats having been overwhelmed by the sight of his eyes. The host, in what was his usual gameshow gusto, spoke into the microphone, “What brings our beloved Creator here, today?” He gave a quick fake gasp. “Are you here to give us your opinion on what should be chosen for Jeremiah?!” The crowd echoed the host’s gasp, and stopped their voting. Their attention became completely fixated on what was happening on the stage.
Jeremiah could only stand there, his gaze never wavering from Creator. While terrified, he knew his life rested in this man’s hands. Creator slowly turned towards Jeremiah and looked as though he was pondering everything there was about him. Flashes of Jeremiah’s life began to play on the screen again in a quick succession, starting with the moment of his birth and ended with a black scene and a loud crashing sound. He then turned back towards the crowd and lifted both of his arms with the palms of his hands facing upwards.
This seemed to be some sort of signal for the audience as they broke out in shocked gasps that were quickly followed with the loudest cheers yet. The host, with a look of pure astonishment on his face screamed into the microphone, “IN ALL MY YEARS OF PLAYING YOUR HUMBLE HOST I HAVE NEVER SEEN CREATOR GIVE A CONTESTANT THE SECOND CHANCE SIGNAL! WE ARE WITNESSING HISTORY TODAY, FOLKS!” The crowd screamed with enthusiasm and grabbed their devices to change their choices. The numbers of the polls quickly reversed with “SECOND CHANCE” soaring to a near total voting count. The host looked beside himself at the rapid change and continued “I have NEVER seen such a turnaround so late in the game! My my, could we be witnessing a second moment in history?!”
Just then, a loud buzzer went off somewhere, indicating the voting period was over. “Esteemed audience and viewers at home, your host is absolutely flabbergasted in your decision and I can honestly say that has never happened before! Well, Jeremiah, it looks like you’re one lucky son of a gun! You’ve WON!! Congratulations on winning a SECOND CHANCE IN THE GAME!!” The crowd stood and cheered, shouting “Jeremiah! Jeremiah! Jeremiah!”
Creator, however, continued to look solemn as he walked over to Jeremiah. Jeremiah stayed rooted on the spot, absolutely terrified over what was going to happen next. But, he had won. Won, what exactly? At that thought, Creator placed his palms on Jeremiah’s chest. A jolt of electricity surged out of his hands and into Jeremiah. Suddenly, everything in Jeremiah’s world was on fire. He couldn’t breathe, scream, or even react to the life inducing current coursing through his body. Creator sent another surge of electricity, and the world went dark for Jeremiah.
Slowly, the world came back to him as yells of “Clear!” reverberated off the walls of a brightly lit hospital room. His eyes fluttered open, and he saw a group of people standing over him, all wearing scrubs.
“Oh, thank God! Jeremiah? Jeremiah can you hear me? This is Doctor Rosen. You’ve been in a car accident, Jeremiah, but you’re going to be fine!”
Jeremiah blinked at the bright lights and whispered, “Did I die?” The doctor smiled slightly and answered, “Yes, but thank God we were able to revive you. Looks like you got a second chance.”
At those words, Jeremiah heard the faint sound of a crowd cheering and chanting his name.
Submitted May 25, 2019 at 01:15AM by enjoyableari